The Guardian 2024-03-25 16:01:39


For the first time the UN security council has voted for a call for a ceasefire in Gaza, after the US abstained, rather than using its veto as it has done on previous occasions. Russia and China have also previously vetoed texts.

The resolution that passed was written by the 10 elected members to the council, and proposed in the chamber by Mozambique’s representative.

Russia attempted to amend the text by restoring it to an earlier draft which included the word “permanent”, but the bid failed.

14 members of the UN security council voted for the resolution, while the US abstained.

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier threatened to cancel a planned delegation to Washington if the US did not exercise its veto.

UN security council votes to demand immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Resolution passes in a first after US abstains in significant break with Israeli government

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The UN security council voted to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for the first time since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, after the US dropped a threat to veto, in a significant break with the Israeli government.

The US abstained in a vote for a resolution that “demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan”. It also demanded the release of hostages by Hamas, but did not make the ceasefire dependent on hostage release, a linkage the US had previously insisted on.

All other 14 members of the security council voted in favour of the resolution, which was put forward by the 10 elected members, who managed to break a deadlock of more than five months of bloodshed, during which the US on one side and Russia and China on the other, had cast opposing vetoes.

After the vote, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, cancelled a visit to Washington DC by an Israeli delegation set for early this week, according to Israel’s Channel 12 television. The delegation was due to discuss a planned Israeli offensive on the city of Rafah in Gaza, something the Biden administration opposed.

The US abstention marks a rift with the Netanyahu government, reflecting mounting frustration in Washington at the prime minister’s defiant insistence Israeli forces will go ahead with the Rafah attack, and at continued Israeli hindrance of humanitarian aid deliveries.

While the resolution demands a temporary ceasefire during the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it adds that should lead to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. In a late amendment demanded by the US, the word “lasting” was substituted for “permanent”, to Russian objections. A Russian effort to restore the word “permanent” was defeated by 11 votes to three.

At the last minute on Monday morning, the US asked for an amendment adding a condemnation of Hamas for its attack on Israel on 7 October, leading to urgent huddles of diplomats on the chamber floor, but dropped that demand when it became clear the amendment would be resisted.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said: “Certain key edits were ignored, including our requests to add a condemnation of Hamas, and we did not agree with everything in the resolution. For that reason we were unfortunately not able to vote yes. However, as I’ve said before, we fully support some of the critical objectives in this non-binding resolution.”

Although it is non-binding, the security council resolution does directly demand a ceasefire, rather than determining it to be an “imperative”, the wording of a defeated US text last week, making it an unequivocal expression of the will of the international community.

Thomas-Greenfield insisted that the wording of the resolution “means a ceasefire of any duration must come with the release of hostages”. The wording of the resolution, intensely debated over the weekend, asks for both a ceasefire and a hostage release in parallel, but does not make one conditional on the other. The security council resolution calls, as previous versions have done, for the expansion of the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and for civilians to be protected.

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The US must stop facilitating mass killing in Gaza

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It is against US law to provide weapons to forces who block United States humanitarian assistance. And that is exactly what is happening right now

I know a man, a decent man, who said that “preventing genocide is an achievable goal, a goal that requires a level of government organization and engagement that matches in its intensity the brutality and efficiency required to carry out mass killing. Too often, these efforts have come too late, after the best and least costly opportunities to prevent them have been missed.”

The man that said that was then-Vice-President and now President Joseph Biden. And he was right.

I rise to say that such a time is now. As we speak, in this moment, 1.1 million innocents in Gaza are at famine’s door. A famine that is being intentionally precipitated through the blocking of food and global humanitarian assistance by leaders in the Israeli government.

This is a mass starvation of people, engineered and orchestrated following the killing of another 30,000, 70% of whom were women and children killed.

There is hardly a single hospital left. And this was all accomplished with US resources and weapons. If you want to know what an unfolding genocide looks like, open your eyes. It looks like the forced famine of 1.1 million innocents. It looks like thousands of children eating grass as their bodies consume themselves, while trucks of food are slowed and halted just miles away. It looks like good and decent people who do nothing. Or too little. Too late.

It is against United States law to provide weapons to forces who block United States humanitarian assistance. And that is exactly what is happening right now. So much so that the president himself stated, during the State of the Union, that the United States must and will be building its own port to let aid through. It will be too late.

The time is now to force compliance with US law and the standards of humanity. And fulfill our obligations to the American people to suspend the transfer of US weapons to the Israeli government in order to stop and prevent further atrocity.

Honoring our alliances does not mean facilitating mass killing. We cannot hide from our responsibility any longer. Blocking assistance from one’s closest allies to starve a million people is not unintentional.

We have a responsibility to prove the value of global democracy, enshrined in the upholding of civil society, rule of law, and commitment to human and civil rights.

This is not just about Israel or Gaza. This is about us. The world will never be the same. And we will never be the same. And we must write our story in this moment, of what it means and who we are as Americans. And our story must be not that we were good men who did nothing. But that we were a committed democracy that did something.

And we must prove that now. With that, I yield back. Thank you.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a US representative from New York’s 14th district

  • This op-ed is adapted from a speech that Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez delivered on Friday in Congress

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Medical crisis in Gaza hospitals at ‘unimaginable’ level, aid agencies say

Visiting medical team reported untreated open wounds, shortage of supplies to pin fractures and lack of food jeopardising treatment

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The medical situation in Gaza’s hospitals has reached an “unimaginable” state of crisis in which large open wounds are being left untreated and medical staff are facing chronic shortages of the most basic medical items, including surgical gauze and material to pin fractures.

The description of conditions was delivered by an emergency medical team organised by three aid groups that spent two weeks carrying out surgeries and other care at the European hospital near Khan Younis.

There has been heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the southern city since the start of the year.

The warning on the dire medical conditions came as Israel announced it would stop working with the UN Relief Works Agency (Unrwa) in the Gaza Strip, which has supported Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Accusing the aid agency of perpetuating conflict, David Mencer, an Israeli spokesperson, said: “Unrwa are part of the problem, and we will now stop working with them. We are actively phasing out the use of Unrwa because they perpetuate the conflict rather than try and alleviate the conflict.”.

Replacing or sidelining Unrwa has long been an objective of Israel’s political right.

Describing their visit to the Khan Younis hospital, the emergency medical team statement said healthcare workers had been forced to evacuate or were unable to access the hospital.

It said Israeli restrictions had led to shortages of medical supplies, including basics such as gauze and plates and screws used to stabilise broken bones.

Vital medical supplies had been caught up in Israel’s restriction of aid to Gaza, which had brought large parts of the territory to the brink of a “man-made famine”, senior UN officials said last week.

The statement was released as Israeli forces continued to assault two major Gaza hospitals, including al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which has been the focus of recent heavy clashes after Israeli forces said Hamas had tried to entrench itself in the hospital buildings.

The visiting surgeons “reported large infected open wounds on patients and having to administer emergency nutritional supplies to patients as the lack of food was jeopardising patient treatment”.

Dr Konstantina Ilia Karydi, an anaesthetist who is a member of the visiting emergency medical team, which includes Medical Aid for Palestinians, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, described harrowing scenes at the European hospital.

“The situation is unimaginable,” said Karydi. “This hospital had an original capacity of just 200 beds, and at the moment it has expanded to 1,000 beds.

“There are around 22,000 people that have been displaced from other parts of Gaza sheltering in the corridors and in tents inside the hospital, because people feel that it’s safer to be here than anywhere else.”

While the team’s surgeons said they had completed successful complex vascular and orthopaedic surgeries on patients, some of the patients later died due to infections in the hospitals and the inability to provide post-operative care, a problem that has plagued trauma care in Gaza for months.

Karydi’s account was echoed by Arvind Das, the IRC’s Gaza team leader. “The situation we’re facing is beyond comprehension. Continuous Israeli military operations near hospitals are making an already tense situation even worse for those seeking shelter or medical help, pushing the healthcare system to the brink of collapse.

“Despite the relentless efforts of our medical teams, the infrastructure necessary to deliver optimal medical care has been severely compromised by bombing, stringent restrictions on the entry of aid including medical supplies, and the overwhelming surge in needs,” Das said.

“We’re doing everything we can, navigating through critical shortages and working with very limited resources, to save lives amidst this dire situation.”

International aid officials say the entire population of the Gaza Strip – 2.3 million people – is suffering from food insecurity and that famine is imminent in the north. Only 12 hospitals are partly functioning, with no fully functioning hospitals within the Palestinian territory.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in the territory, and more than 74,000 wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its counts. It says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The statement from the three NGOs follows a warning this month by a World Health Organization team of the dire conditions in two hospitals it visited.

A WHO team found “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed” during a visit to al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals in northern Gaza, according to the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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Vaping debate: doctor’s reticence over tobacco money raises questions over conflict of interest

Dr Carolyn Beaumont’s website prescribes vapes without a direct consultation, and she has given education presentations without declaring financial support from tobacco company

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A GP opposed to the government’s vaping reforms and whose nicotine prescription website is being assessed by the drugs regulator has given school vaping education sessions and spoken at a student conference without declaring she has received financial support from a tobacco company.

Dr Carolyn Beaumont owns the vaping telehealth service medicalnicotine.com.au, which allows people to obtain a prescription for nicotine vapes in minutes, without speaking directly to a doctor or pharmacist.

The Medical Board of Australia confirmed that this was legal, but said the lack of real-time direct consultation was not good practice.

The platform is among a number of vaping prescription websites under assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for potentially encouraging patients to request a particular prescription medicine.

In June 2023, Beaumont spoke at the tobacco industry’s Global Forum on Nicotine in Seoul, South Korea, with the forum covering her expenses to attend.

She is also a recipient of a Knowledge-Action-Change (KAC) tobacco harm reduction scholarship. KAC has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which in turn is funded by Philip Morris International.

Beaumont’s biography for the Global Forum on Nicotine says that as a recipient of the scholarship she is “creating an educational presentation on tobacco harm reduction for Australian medical students”.

In the same month, Beaumont spoke on a panel titled Media, Medicine and the Vaping Epidemic at the University of Melbourne’s medical student conference.

A University of Melbourne spokesperson said the panellists were asked to declare any conflicts of interest.

“Dr Beaumont declared that she had no conflicts of interest. At the commencement of the panel session at the conference, all speakers were asked to identify any relationships with industry/research funding. As Dr Beaumont declared no conflict of interest, no declaration was included in the visual display nor was a verbal declaration made.”

On her medicalnicotine.com.au website, Beaumont says she runs education sessions for secondary school students and parents about “teenage vaping concerns, and the dangers of becoming addicted to nicotine”.

Her website previously included an endorsement from Beaumaris Secondary College, a Victorian government school.

A Victorian government spokesperson said Beaumont “proactively approached Beaumaris Secondary College, volunteering to present”.

The spokesperson said Beaumont did not declare to the school benefits received from the tobacco or vaping industry. “She did not seek the school’s approval to reference it in promotional materials, and was not paid for her services,” they said.

There is no policy requiring guest speakers who are running an education program in schools to disclose any potential conflicts of interests. Guardian Australia understands that policy is now under review.

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Beaumont declined to answer questions from Guardian Australia. After she was contacted for a response, a conflict of interest declaration was added to her website. It says that due to the cost of international travel, and without research institution funding, “it has been necessary on occasion to have travel costs covered in part by [the] tobacco industry”.

“Note that any such arrangements have been completely unconditional, and have never influenced my clinical decisions …”

In the statement Beaumont says “on the balance of evidence” she supports tobacco harm reduction and the role of vaping for adult smokers, as well as reducing youth uptake and “removing the blackmarket”.

“Occasional unconditional tobacco-industry funded travel costs are required to achieve these aims, in the absence of alternative sources of funding.”

She says the decision to accept such funding is “never made lightly”, and she has “never sought to hide” these sources of funding.

Telehealth platform

Beaumont is opposed to federal government efforts aimed at reducing the supply of nicotine vaping products, including an import ban on disposable vapes. The government has said the aim of its reforms is to reduce supply to children, and they are not intended to criminalise individuals who use vapes, whether adults or children.

On her website Beaumont states: “I am passionate about educating teenagers about the real risks of blackmarket vaping – unregulated products with unknown nicotine content, electrical safety hazards, no quality control and unknown levels of harmful contaminants.”

In an interview with the Global Forum on Nicotine’s media channel in December, Beaumont spoke of her hopes for 2024, saying: “What I most wish for is for the Australian ban on disposable vapes scheduled to occur on New Year’s Day to be stopped.

“I wish for the planned ban on all personal importation of any vapes scheduled for March to be stopped. I wish for the Australian prescription model of vaping to stop and for the barriers to accessing a doctor to be truly understood and acknowledged.”

Despite this, Beaumont operates her own prescription vaping telehealth platform, medicalnicotine.com.au.

Guardian Australia followed the steps for obtaining a script online through the site in late February.

A Medicare number was not required to be entered, nor was a phone or video consultation needed.

After declaring that they are over 16 (which has since been changed to 18) and paying $40, patients are directed to fill out a short questionnaire to receive a script for a six-month supply of vapes, which must be used at the online pharmacy QuickRx. Patients can choose their own vape strength as part of this process, along with their preferred product – pods, disposable vapes or liquid nicotine.

Patients are not required to try first-line, evidence-based treatments first. They can simply tick a box stating: “I am not interested in nicotine replacement therapies.”

Guardian Australia selected “I wasn’t a regular smoker, but have started vaping instead of taking up smoking (because I have found other benefits to it)” as the reason for wanting a prescription.

A spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said: “Nicotine vaping products are not recommended for first-line smoking cessation, but may be suitable for smoking cessation in conjunction with behavioural support where first-line therapies have failed.

“It is not recommended that non-smokers or non-vapers start vaping.”

The spokesperson said patients should also be informed that due to the lack of available evidence, the long-term health effects of nicotine vaping products are unknown; that their safety and quality have not been established; that the lack of uniformity in vaping devices increases the uncertainties and risks associated with their use; and dual use of tobacco and vapes should be avoided. The importance of the patient returning for regular review and monitoring should be emphasised, they said.

None of these were communicated in the process of obtaining a prescription from Beaumont’s site. Some parts of the form and questions have been updated since inquiries were made by Guardian Australia.

Beaumont did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia about accessing a prescription, but did comment on an article about vaping on the Medical Republic site.

In the comments section, she appeared to refer to some of the questions put to her by Guardian Australia.

Beaumont set out why she did not do phone or video consults: “Firstly, timezones.

“I’m in Victoria, and many patients are from WA,” she wrote.

“There’s a 3 hour gap, so realistically I can’t make calls until midday. Consider also that as a whole, heavy smokers are more likely to work jobs such as construction, mining or hospitality. These jobs don’t lend themselves to taking time out for a phone consult.”

She wrote that she disagreed with the Medical Board that telehealth without a phone or video consult was not best medical practice.

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A state appeals court has reduced the bond Donald Trump must put up in response to his civil fraud judgment in New York to $175m, and given him 10 more days to get the money together, Reuters reports.

Previously, the former president had until today to produce a $454m bond in response to a judge’s finding that he fraudulently manipulated the value of his assets, an amount Trump said he was not able to secure.

Due to an error by Reuters, this post was corrected to note the decision was made by a New York appeals court, not a federal court.

New York court lowers Trump’s bond to $175m and gives him 10 days to secure it

New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, had given ex-president until Monday to secure bond covering $454m loss in fraud case

A New York court handed Donald Trump a lifeline on Monday as time ran out for the former president to secure a bond covering the $454m loss for his recent fraud case.

A panel of appellate court judges gave Trump 10 days to secure a far smaller $175m bond just hours before New York’s attorney general could legally begin the long, slow process of seizing his assets.

Last week Trump’s lawyers said it was a “practical impossibility” for him to secure a bond for half a billion dollars, covering the full fine from his fraud loss.

“A bond of this size is rarely if ever seen. In the unusual circumstance that a bond of this size is issued, it is provided to the largest public companies in the world, not to individuals or privately held businesses,” his lawyers argued.

The attorney general, Letitia James, had made clear that she will seize Trump assets if the bond is not secured. On Friday her office filed judgments in Westchester county, north of New York City, home to Trump’s sprawling Seven Springs estate and golf course.

A judgment has already been entered in New York City, home to some of Trump’s most famous assets, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street.

The moves are the first step in a chain of events James will have to take to secure Trump assets. “It’s not going to be a piece of cake,” said Nikos Passas, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University.

Passas said that besides the obvious political issues and Trump’s attacks on the attorney general, James faced difficulties over the complex and opaque financial structure of Trump’s assets. “There may be a lot of debts she may or may not know about. She may have to file a subpoena for financial information,” said Passas.

Passas said Trump might look to reach a deal with bond guarantors that takes into account a potentially huge Friday windfall.

Trump added a potential $3bn to his assets on Friday when his Truth Social social network finalized a long-in-the-making stock-market listing. The investment vehicle that merged with Truth Social has become a “meme stock” – an investment that has attracted a cult-like and whose price seems out of proportion to the business fundamentals.

But that too may be a hard sell. “Meme stocks notoriously go up and down like crazy,” said Passas. “Whoever makes a decision to deal with Trump at this point will be making a political as well as a financial decision.”

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Judge in hush-money case appears unsympathetic to Trump call for delay

Hearing weighs former president’s receipt of discovery documents just weeks before trial as lawyers push for postponement

Donald Trump appeared on the verge of another legal defeat on Monday as the judge overseeing his trial involving the adult film star Stormy Daniels appeared displeased with the ex-US president’s lawyers allegation of prosecutorial misconduct.

“It’s odd that we’re even here,” Judge Juan Merchan told Todd Blanche after grilling the Trump attorney on his legal team’s claims.

Merchan had scheduled the hearing – which is taking place on the day when Trump’s trial was originally scheduled to start – to determine whether the presumptive Republican presidential candidate’s recent receipt of more than 100,000 pages of discovery documents merited yet another delay.

Trump’s lawyers had asked Judge Juan Merchan to delay the trial at least 90 days, or dismiss it, over what they called “violations” in the discovery process – that is, they claim Manhattan state prosecutors did not follow legal requirements to disclose evidence to them in a timely manner.

The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, which agreed to a month-long postponement so that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee can review the documents, insists that still more postponement is not necessary.

The prosecutors contend that they had followed with discovery law, determined that the minimal amount of relevant documents were “inculpatory” and that Trump’s lawyers were responsible for the delay.

The documents related to federal prosecutors’ investigation of Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime consigliere turned prosecution witness. Several US attorney’s offices had the documents in question, not the Manhattan DA. Manhattan state prosecutors had turned over many documents from Cohen’s federal proceedings to Trump’s team; the disclosures relate to some documents that had not been given to Bragg’s office.

Trump, prosecutors said, shuffled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cohen as part of his effort to cover up allegations of extramarital affairs, and then listed the payouts as legal costs in his business records. In April 2023, prosecutors charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, a class E felony.

Bragg’s office said that Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels and coordinated with the National Enquirer’s publisher to give the former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000, to thwart their accounts of sexual encounters with Trump, which he denies. Trump’s namesake company then repaid Cohen $420,000 in a handful of installments, prosecutors said.

Trump’s camp cried foul over having received these documents only recently.

“The People have engaged in widespread misconduct as part of a desperate effort to improve their position at the potential trial on the false and unsupported charges in the Indictment,” Trump’s lawyers argued in court filings.

They insisted that these documents, which were generated during Manhattan federal prosecutors’ investigation into hush-money payments, included “reports relating to statements by Cohen that are exculpatory and favorable to the defense”.

Prosecutors wrote in court papers that Trump’s lawyers waited until January to make requests for additional Michael Cohen-related documents from federal prosecutors, writing: “The belated nature of the recent USAO productions is entirely a result of defendant’s own inexplicable and strategic delay in identifying perceived deficiencies.”

During the proceeding, Merchan hammered Blanche on discovery law, asking why he thought Bragg’s office could be at fault for the feds’ recent disclosure. While local prosecutors must share evidence that is considered in their possession – for example, items gathered by their respective locality’s police – evidence in federal authorities’ control is not considered under local prosecutors’ possession.

Merchan asked Blanche whether he agreed that established law applied in this circumstance.

Blanche did not give a direct answer initially.

“Your honor, with the caveat that we put in our papers —” Blanche said.

“I’m asking about the statute,” Merchan interjected. “I’m asking about the statute and case law.”

Blanche tried again with a “your honor”, but Merchan pressed on.

“Can you give me a single case?” Merchan said, asking whether there was any prior ruling showing that a district attorney had power over the feds’ evidence.

Blanche said he did not have any case like that.

“That you don’t have a case right now is really disconcerting because the allegations that the defense makes in all of your papers about prosecutors’ misconduct is incredibly serious – unbelievably serious.

“You’re literally accusing the Manhattan DA’s office, and the people assigned to this case, of prosecutorial misconduct and [of] trying to make me complicit in it and you don’t have a single cite to support [your] position.”

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Fani Willis: ‘Train is coming’ for Trump despite efforts to derail Georgia case

Fulton county district attorney says she doesn’t feel like ‘we have been slowed down’ by Trump’s efforts to disqualify her

The Georgia prosecutor overseeing Donald Trump’s election interference case in that state promised on Saturday that “the train is coming” for him despite defense efforts to derail her office’s pursuit of charges against the former president and nearly two dozen co-defendants.

Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis’s remarks came after a court challenge centering on a romantic relationship that she had with a special prosecutor whom she appointed to the case, Nathan Wade. After the relationship was exposed, Wade stepped down from the prosecution to defuse any appearances of a potential conflict of interest and so Willis could stay on the case.

“I don’t feel like we have been slowed down at all” by Trump’s efforts to use the relationship with Wade to disqualify her from prosecuting him, Willis told CNN on Saturday at a Georgia Easter egg hunt. “I think there are efforts to slow down the train, but the train is coming.”

Willis’s case alleges a conspiracy to commit election fraud after Trump came up narrowly short in the state’s vote during the 2020 presidential race that he lost to Joe Biden. But it has been beset with complications.

A little more than 10 days ago, the Fulton county judge Scott McAfee dismissed six counts against Trump and his co-defendants relating to a notorious phone call in which the former president urged the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” more than 11,000 votes that would put Trump over Biden.

Of the 13 counts Trump faces, three of them were thrown out. McAfee essentially agreed with defense lawyers that the charges “fail to allege sufficient detail” regarding what aspect of Raffensperger’s oath of office the defendants were allegedly trying to get him to break.

But the attention on Willis, who had hired Wade to draw up the charges, continues to hang over the case. Earlier in March, McAfee held three days of hearings weighing motions to disqualify her.

Wade and Willis admitted they had been in a relationship but said it did “not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest”. They maintained that Willis had not benefitted financially, directly or indirectly, when they took several holidays and trips together.

McAfee ruled there was not sufficient evidence to prove the defense’s claims but rebuked Willis for what he called a “tremendous lapse in judgment”.

Attorneys for Trump argued that Willis – who is Black – committed “appalling and unforgivable” forms of forensic misconduct by “stoking racial and religious prejudice” against the defendants after she claimed that the allegations against her had been motivated by race.

The judge later agreed that attorneys for Trump’s co-defendants were free to appeal his ruling that she could stay on the case. That proceeding is almost certain to lead to a new set of legal challenges relating to prosecutorial impropriety, actual or in appearance, around the Willis-Wade affair.

Willis told CNN that she did not feel that her professional reputation had been sullied or that she had done anything embarrassing.

“I’m not embarrassed by anything I’ve done,” Willis said. “I guess my greatest crime is that I had a relationship with a man, but that’s not something I find embarrassing in any way.”

But some questioned her decision to speak to the media after the intense attention around her personal decisions around the case have come close to derailing it entirely.

In a series of posts on X, the Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, who has been following the case against Trump, noted that McAfee had previously threatened to impose a gag order on Willis.

“If I were Fani Willis, I would simply not talk to the media at all at this point just out of an abundance of caution,” Kreis wrote.

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Australia chose Aukus and now it faces the prospect of having no submarine capability for at least a decade

Malcolm Turnbull

The provision of American Virginia-class subs depends on US industrial development, military needs, politics – and possibly Trump. Australia has no agency or leverage over any of these

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As we contemplate the real likelihood of Trump #2, what does that mean for Aukus? We start off with absolutely no leverage.

Scott Morrison’s big idea in Aukus was to cancel a submarine construction program with France which would have given us new boats to replace the Collins Class subs as they retired in the 2030s, with a partnership to build new (as yet design incomplete) nuclear powered “Aukus SSN” submarines with the UK assisted by the United States, the first of which would not be available, assuming all went on time, until the 2040s.

But how do you fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Collins-class submarines in the 2030s? Most big defence projects run late and the UK contractor, BAE, has consistently run late and over budget on its naval projects, including the most recent UK Astute-class submarine and the Australian Hunter-class frigate.

The solution was to acquire three, possibly five Virginia-class submarines from the US, with the first arriving in 2032 and the next two in 2035 and 2037, with an additional two if the Aukus SSNs are late.

They would be a mix of secondhand boats, with 20 years of life left, and new boats. These would cover our submarine needs until the Aukus SSNs were constructed.

If submarines were like iPhones and you could buy them off the shelf that would all make sense, but as it happens the US Navy is short of submarines. It has at least 17 fewer Virginias than it currently needs. Not only is US industry not building enough to meet the US Navy’s needs, it cannot maintain a satisfactory rate of repair and maintenance of the submarines it has. As of last September, 33% of the SSN force was in depot maintenance or idle awaiting maintenance, versus a target of 20%.

At the moment the US is completing between 1.2 and 1.3 Virginia-class submarines a year. This year the US Navy has cut its order for new Virginias from two boats to one in recognition of the inability of industry currently to meet its needs.

In order to meet the US Navy’s own stated needs and catch up on its submarine shortage, this rate of production needs to grow to two boats a year by 2028 and 2.33 boats a year shortly after that. In order to provide boats to Australia, as contemplated by Aukus, that higher rate of production would need to be maintained.

The Aukus legislation passed by Congress last December specifically states that submarines cannot be sold to Australia unless the president certifies that their sale will not detract from the needs of the US Navy. This is stating no more than political common sense; the US will not sell Virginias to Australia unless the US Navy avows that it does not need them.

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This means that in order to get to that point you have to assume the rate of Virginia-class submarine construction will nearly double over the next four years, the submarine needs of the US Navy will not increase and that by the early 2030s the navy will be sufficiently relaxed about the China threat that it is prepared to reduce its own submarine fleet by three and maybe five of its most valuable underwater assets.

Many US defence experts, such as the former Trump-era assistant secretary for defence Elbridge Colby, say it is just not realistic to expect the US Navy to diminish its own fleet of such vital assets during a period when they believe war is a very real possibility.

The provision of Virginia-class submarines to the Royal Australian Navy depends on US industrial development, US military needs and US politics. Australia has no agency or leverage over any of these factors. So much for Australian sovereignty.

Is there a plan B? Well, nobody in Canberra seems to have one, but the US certainly does. It is set out, in considerable detail, in an official research paper prepared by the US Congress and is described as a “Military Division of Labor” whereby Australia would have no submarines. The US Navy would base some of their own in Perth, at the submarine base we are building for them, and Australia would invest the money it has saved into other capabilities. Or it could just hand over more cash to the US government – pay for our own protection perhaps, like South Korea or Japan do.

This arrangement could continue until such time as the Aukus SSNs, to be built in partnership with the UK, arrive (some time in the 2040s we hope) or continue for ever. Royal Australian Navy officers and sailors could perhaps be included in the crew of some of these Virginias.

What will Donald Trump’s attitude to Aukus be? Well, we have already agreed to give the Americans US$3bn as a contribution to expanding their submarine industrial base. Trump will no doubt be bemused that we would spend money on expanding HIS country’s industrial base rather than our own (and even more amazed we are sending a similar amount to the UK to support the construction of the Aukus SSNs). His natural instinct will be to ask for more money, both as a contribution to the US submarine construction industry and for the submarines, if we get around to buying one – although that is likely to be after his four-year term.

Trump’s second favourite slogan is “America First” and that is very much the zeitgeist in Washington nowadays, on both sides of the aisle. So if there is any contention or suggestion that the US Navy cannot spare Virginias for Australia, there is no mystery where Trump will land.

It seems to me that the most likely outcomes will be that the Virginias will not be available to Australia because the US Navy cannot spare them and that the Aukus SSNs will almost certainly be late. This would mean an extended capability gap from the early 2030s when Australia will have a diminishing and then no submarine fleet. Even someone with the most optimistic perspective would have to acknowledge this scenario was a serious possibility.

We could look back and reflect that with the now-cancelled Attack-class submarine program with France, Australia was entirely in control of its own destiny. All of the relevant IP had been transferred to Australia, where the submarines were being built. Their completion depended on us. France had no possible motive or reason to be anything other than supportive. The design was established and nuclear-powered versions of the submarine were already in the water. Compared with Aukus it was a much lower-risk, and lower-cost, exercise.

But it is now too late to revive the French partnership. There was a window of opportunity to do that after the election of the Albanese government, but it resolved to stick with Morrison’s policy and the risks it carried.

At the time Aukus was announced I was concerned the nuclear-powered submarines, using weapons-grade uranium provided by the US or the UK, would not be able to be operated without foreign supervision and support. This was not, to my way of thinking, a sovereign submarine capability.

We now have to face the real prospect, for much of the next decade and beyond, of not having any Australian submarine capability at all.

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Australia chose Aukus and now it faces the prospect of having no submarine capability for at least a decade

Malcolm Turnbull

The provision of American Virginia-class subs depends on US industrial development, military needs, politics – and possibly Trump. Australia has no agency or leverage over any of these

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As we contemplate the real likelihood of Trump #2, what does that mean for Aukus? We start off with absolutely no leverage.

Scott Morrison’s big idea in Aukus was to cancel a submarine construction program with France which would have given us new boats to replace the Collins Class subs as they retired in the 2030s, with a partnership to build new (as yet design incomplete) nuclear powered “Aukus SSN” submarines with the UK assisted by the United States, the first of which would not be available, assuming all went on time, until the 2040s.

But how do you fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Collins-class submarines in the 2030s? Most big defence projects run late and the UK contractor, BAE, has consistently run late and over budget on its naval projects, including the most recent UK Astute-class submarine and the Australian Hunter-class frigate.

The solution was to acquire three, possibly five Virginia-class submarines from the US, with the first arriving in 2032 and the next two in 2035 and 2037, with an additional two if the Aukus SSNs are late.

They would be a mix of secondhand boats, with 20 years of life left, and new boats. These would cover our submarine needs until the Aukus SSNs were constructed.

If submarines were like iPhones and you could buy them off the shelf that would all make sense, but as it happens the US Navy is short of submarines. It has at least 17 fewer Virginias than it currently needs. Not only is US industry not building enough to meet the US Navy’s needs, it cannot maintain a satisfactory rate of repair and maintenance of the submarines it has. As of last September, 33% of the SSN force was in depot maintenance or idle awaiting maintenance, versus a target of 20%.

At the moment the US is completing between 1.2 and 1.3 Virginia-class submarines a year. This year the US Navy has cut its order for new Virginias from two boats to one in recognition of the inability of industry currently to meet its needs.

In order to meet the US Navy’s own stated needs and catch up on its submarine shortage, this rate of production needs to grow to two boats a year by 2028 and 2.33 boats a year shortly after that. In order to provide boats to Australia, as contemplated by Aukus, that higher rate of production would need to be maintained.

The Aukus legislation passed by Congress last December specifically states that submarines cannot be sold to Australia unless the president certifies that their sale will not detract from the needs of the US Navy. This is stating no more than political common sense; the US will not sell Virginias to Australia unless the US Navy avows that it does not need them.

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This means that in order to get to that point you have to assume the rate of Virginia-class submarine construction will nearly double over the next four years, the submarine needs of the US Navy will not increase and that by the early 2030s the navy will be sufficiently relaxed about the China threat that it is prepared to reduce its own submarine fleet by three and maybe five of its most valuable underwater assets.

Many US defence experts, such as the former Trump-era assistant secretary for defence Elbridge Colby, say it is just not realistic to expect the US Navy to diminish its own fleet of such vital assets during a period when they believe war is a very real possibility.

The provision of Virginia-class submarines to the Royal Australian Navy depends on US industrial development, US military needs and US politics. Australia has no agency or leverage over any of these factors. So much for Australian sovereignty.

Is there a plan B? Well, nobody in Canberra seems to have one, but the US certainly does. It is set out, in considerable detail, in an official research paper prepared by the US Congress and is described as a “Military Division of Labor” whereby Australia would have no submarines. The US Navy would base some of their own in Perth, at the submarine base we are building for them, and Australia would invest the money it has saved into other capabilities. Or it could just hand over more cash to the US government – pay for our own protection perhaps, like South Korea or Japan do.

This arrangement could continue until such time as the Aukus SSNs, to be built in partnership with the UK, arrive (some time in the 2040s we hope) or continue for ever. Royal Australian Navy officers and sailors could perhaps be included in the crew of some of these Virginias.

What will Donald Trump’s attitude to Aukus be? Well, we have already agreed to give the Americans US$3bn as a contribution to expanding their submarine industrial base. Trump will no doubt be bemused that we would spend money on expanding HIS country’s industrial base rather than our own (and even more amazed we are sending a similar amount to the UK to support the construction of the Aukus SSNs). His natural instinct will be to ask for more money, both as a contribution to the US submarine construction industry and for the submarines, if we get around to buying one – although that is likely to be after his four-year term.

Trump’s second favourite slogan is “America First” and that is very much the zeitgeist in Washington nowadays, on both sides of the aisle. So if there is any contention or suggestion that the US Navy cannot spare Virginias for Australia, there is no mystery where Trump will land.

It seems to me that the most likely outcomes will be that the Virginias will not be available to Australia because the US Navy cannot spare them and that the Aukus SSNs will almost certainly be late. This would mean an extended capability gap from the early 2030s when Australia will have a diminishing and then no submarine fleet. Even someone with the most optimistic perspective would have to acknowledge this scenario was a serious possibility.

We could look back and reflect that with the now-cancelled Attack-class submarine program with France, Australia was entirely in control of its own destiny. All of the relevant IP had been transferred to Australia, where the submarines were being built. Their completion depended on us. France had no possible motive or reason to be anything other than supportive. The design was established and nuclear-powered versions of the submarine were already in the water. Compared with Aukus it was a much lower-risk, and lower-cost, exercise.

But it is now too late to revive the French partnership. There was a window of opportunity to do that after the election of the Albanese government, but it resolved to stick with Morrison’s policy and the risks it carried.

At the time Aukus was announced I was concerned the nuclear-powered submarines, using weapons-grade uranium provided by the US or the UK, would not be able to be operated without foreign supervision and support. This was not, to my way of thinking, a sovereign submarine capability.

We now have to face the real prospect, for much of the next decade and beyond, of not having any Australian submarine capability at all.

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Australia’s $4.6bn Aukus funding to help create more than 1,000 jobs in UK, Rolls-Royce says

Company says work is already under way ‘to double the size of the Rolls-Royce Submarines site in the UK

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Australia’s Aukus funding will help create more than 1,000 new jobs in Derby in the United Kingdom, according to the beneficiary, Rolls-Royce.

The project – which is jointly funded by the UK’s Ministry of Defence – is also expected to see the construction of new office space in addition to manufacturing facilities.

The Australian government revealed late last week that it would send A$4.6bn (£2.4bn) to the UK over the next 10 years to ensure the Rolls-Royce nuclear reactor production line in Derby was able to supply reactors for use in Adelaide-built submarines.

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The government has not provided detailed information about what the funding will cover, except to say it will “enable the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby to operate at an increased rate of production”.

Rolls-Royce, however, has been more forthcoming. It has welcomed the Australian government funding and said work was already under way “to double the size of the Rolls-Royce Submarines site in Raynesway, Derby”.

“Now jointly funded by UK MOD and the Australian Department of Defence, the expansion work announced last summer will create over 1,000 new jobs in Derby across a range of disciplines, including manufacturing and engineering,” the company said in a statement published on its website.

“It will also see new manufacturing and office facilities being built on recently acquired land surrounding the existing Raynesway site.”

The year-by-year breakdown of the Australian funding over the next 10 years has not yet been disclosed.

But the Australian government sees the investment as crucial to ensuring nuclear reactors are able to be built on time for both Australian and UK needs.

It insists that despite the plans to spend billions of dollars on boosting the industrial base in both the UK and the US, a much bigger sum will be spent on infrastructure and skills development in Australia.

On Friday the Coalition’s defence spokesperson, Andrew Hastie, said he was pleased to see the government take “these next steps in concert with the UK and the US”.

But Hastie called on the government to “be honest with the Australian people and provide further details around costs, workforce and preparedness”.

“In October last year, Defence revealed there was no provision in the Defence budget for the $5bn payment to the UK,” Hastie said.

“Labor must be upfront and clarify if the funding announced today has come from further reprioritisation within Defence – and therefore at the cost of existing capabilities.”

That was based on a Senate estimates exchange in October when an official said that the government had a provision of US$3bn to boost the US industrial base but “on the UK side we’re still working through what that provision might be”.

A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said it was increasingly clear that the Liberal party did not understand the budget process.

“As was made clear at Senate Estimates by officials when asked about this, they confirmed that funding had been set aside in the provisions for the Nuclear-Powered Submarine program for UK and US uplift,” the spokesperson said.

The Australian investment in the UK industrial base falls within the previously announced overall funding envelope for the Aukus submarine project, which was $50bn to $58bn in the first 10 years of the plan.

Guardian Australia understands funding was set aside in the provision for UK and US industrial costs, but it sat as “unapproved” because the government had to sign off on detailed individual proposals after international negotiations.

In parliamentary question time on Monday, Marles said Aukus would be “one of the biggest undertakings in our country’s history”.

He said thousands of people would be employed at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia where the new class of submarine SSN-Aukus would be built.

He said the latest announcements – including the UK funding and establishing a joint venture with the British defence contractor BAE Systems – demonstrated that Aukus was “happening and progressing well”.

The Greens’ defence spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said it was “an extraordinarily bad deal” for Australian taxpayers.

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‘Traumatising experience’: ATO under fire for denying debt relief to at-risk taxpayer in robotax fallout

Tax ombudsman reveals agency acknowledged person was at immediate risk of homelessness and criticises it for lack of empathy

The Australian Taxation Office denied debt relief to a taxpayer despite acknowledging the person was in serious financial hardship and at immediate risk of homelessness, according to details released by the tax ombudsman.

The person, whose name was not disclosed, is one of many caught by the ATO’s widely criticised “robotax” scheme that has resurrected decades-old debts in pursuit of more than $15bn.

Karen Payne, the country’s top tax bureaucrat in charge of the complaints management service, said the lack of empathy shown in the ATO’s dealings with someone in difficult circumstances shows how an agency can wrongly prioritise its debt collection function over its obligation to support the community.

She said the ATO had also overlooked its discretionary and remedial powers when liaising with vulnerable people.

“It’s not the experience of everyone in the system, but for that individual, it’s a pretty traumatising experience,” said Payne, the inspector general of taxation.

“It’s important we get better guidance and better instructions to help people who are administering the system.”

After intervention from the ombudsman’s office, the ATO reversed its decision and the at-risk person was provided with a refund rather than having it eroded by an old debt.

The ATO had been ramping up its new debt collection scheme to eventually capture up to 1.8m entities, largely consisting of individuals, before recently pausing the part of the program aimed at recovering historical debts.

The amounts are still owing and have not been cancelled.

While individual tax debt waivers are typically a matter for the finance minister, it is understood a decision to wipe the billions in debt would require approval from the whole of government.

Many of the debts far exceed the five-year retention period most taxpayers are required to keep records, generating complaints and raising questions over the fairness of the scheme.

The old debts are described as “on hold”, marked to be extracted from tax refunds, and were triggered by a change in ATO processes that previously filtered out debts if they were very old, small, and if the taxpayer was aged over 70 years or earning a low income.

The wider ATO program has captured a variety of people, including retirees, workers, welfare recipients and deceased estates, with the amounts owed as small as a few cents rising to many thousands of dollars.

The tax office has previously acknowledged a taxpayer communication campaign designed to raise awareness of the debts caused unnecessary distress.

The ATO was contacted for comment.

While the ATO has repeatedly said it was legally obliged to pursue the program, Payne said the tax commissioner already had various powers to avoid unintended consequences, such as making people homeless.

“There are things you can do in the process of debt collection to make it a more humane, civilised experience,” said Payne.

“We can’t rely on parliament passing changes to fix every problem in the tax law.

“If you’re getting outcomes that you think were never intended to happen, then there’s a way for the commissioner to unilaterally remediate the law to produce sensible outcomes.”

Rob Heferen took over as tax commissioner from Chris Jordan at the start of March, leaving the veteran public servant to deal with the fallout from the troubled scheme.

Department reprimand

In response to the ATO program, the offices of the tax and commonwealth ombudsmen published a guide on Tuesday advising agencies on best practice for communicating with people about debts.

“While the law may require agencies to take certain action, agencies are also responsible for determining how they take that action in a way that minimises distress to affected and impacted people,” the guide said.

It advises agencies to: be transparent and accountable; tell people what the debt is and where it comes from; and provide clear information for requesting reviews, waivers and repayment arrangements.

As well as a detailed critique of the ATO, the guide also notes that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations failed to apologise after a systems update resulted in the unexpected transfer of thousands of historical student debts from the department to the ATO.

“The ombudsman suggested the department apologise and help people access financial remedies where appropriate,” the guide said.

“Disappointingly, the department did not apologise and its website provides only very limited information about financial remedies for individuals.”

A departmental spokesperson said the government implemented a suite of mitigation and support measures for affected students including waiving all historical indexation on affected loans.

“The department has corresponded directly with all affected students as their loans have transferred to the ATO, including information about these and other financial remedies and information on how to check their loans,” the spokesperson said.

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Guardian Essential poll: Only 29% of voters support more public funding of election candidates

Exclusive: Poll rings alarm bells as Albanese government eyes major electoral reforms amid weakening popularity with voters

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Less than a third of voters back increased public funding for political candidates to reduce reliance on donations, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

The poll of 1,150 respondents is a major warning to the Albanese government, which is considering increasing public funding as part of a significant suite of electoral reforms to be introduced by mid-year.

After the Coalition took the lead against Labor in February for the first time since the Albanese government’s election, the opposition appears to have retained an edge in two-party preferred terms with 50% of voters planning to vote for the Coalition versus 44% for Labor while 6% remain undecided.

Excluding undecided voters, the Coalition leads Labor 53% to 47%, up from 50-50 earlier in March, indicating the results are volatile but trending in the opposition’s direction.

Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton’s approval ratings are largely unchanged. Both have a -3% net favourability rating, with 35% of people polled giving Albanese a negative rating of between 0 and 3 on a 10 point scale, and 32% a positive rating of 7 to 10. For Dutton, 34% rated him negatively and 31% positively.

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The poll found people less satisfied with the performance of democracy in Australia. Only a third (32%) of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied with how democracy is working, down 14 points from May 2022 when the Albanese government was elected.

About the same proportion (31%) are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, up 13 points, while a further third (32%) are undecided.

In the week that independents revealed a bill to ban mega-political donations totalling $1.5m, respondents were asked about a suite of electoral reforms. A majority supported:

  • Ensuring the content of political adverts is truthful (73%)

  • Real time reporting of donations to political parties (64%)

  • Caps on the value of donations companies or individuals can give to political parties (61%).

All three elements are expected to be included in a government bill to be introduced by special minister of state, Don Farrell, who is still negotiating with the Coalition and crossbench about caps on donations and spending.

Respondents weren’t enthusiastic about increased public funding to reduce reliance on donations, with 29% in favour, 35% opposed and 36% neither supporting nor opposing. Increased public funding is expected to compensate for reduced donations, if restrictive caps are adopted.

The government also faces a potential backlash against the application of spending caps on a seat-by-seat basis, which could limit independents’ ability to finance expensive campaigns to raise their profile against incumbents but which would allow major parties to spend more on national advertising because they contest unwinnable seats.

GetUp chief executive, Larissa Baldwin-Roberts, said on paper, a cap on spending in seats and donations was a good thing because “it means no one … can spend hundreds of millions to buy a senate seat, and inner city seats don’t just fall to the highest bidder”.

“A one-size-fits-all spending cap could also significantly disenfranchise bush seats, like Lingiari, which is almost the size of the entire [Northern] Territory, where voters rely on civil society and community organisations to receive any notification about upcoming elections and candidates,” Baldwin-Roberts said.

The poll found respondents are happier with how Australia is doing on climate change, with the proportion of people who think it is not doing enough falling to 35%, down four points from October 2023. About 38% said the country is doing enough, up two points, while 18% said it is doing too much, up one percentage point.

A majority of respondents (58%) thought social media companies such as Meta and TikTok should be regulated more. About a third (34%) said the current regulation is about right, while 9% said they should be regulated less.

There are calls for the Australian government to ban TikTok unless its parent company sells the social media app to another company that is not based in China. About 45% of respondents supported a ban on TikTok, 25% were opposed, and 31% neither supported nor opposed such a ban.

Overall, people remained sitting on the fence about whether social media had a positive impact on their lives (27% said yes), or a negative affect (29%), with 44% saying it had a neutral affect.

In relation to Australia’s news media bargaining code, respondents were told that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) had announced it would “close its news tab and stop paying media companies to access their journalism”.

One-third (33%) of respondents sided with media companies who argue “their content benefits Meta, and this decision means journalism jobs will no longer be funded, undermining democracy”.

One in five backed Meta’s view that “its users don’t share news content and it shouldn’t have to pay media companies to access their journalism any more”. Almost half (47%) of respondents were unsure or supported neither side.

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Curaçao urged repeatedly to crack down on online casinos targeting Australians

Many of the 1,000 gambling sites blocked by Australia’s watchdog were licensed on the Caribbean island, which has become a casino hub due to limited oversight

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The media watchdog has repeatedly urged authorities in the tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao to stop letting online casinos target Australian consumers as it blacklists more operators.

Offshore gambling companies have been banned from targeting Australians. A large portion of the almost 1,000 websites blocked by the watchdog were licensed in Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela, which has become a hub for online casinos due to limited oversight.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) spokesperson said the agency had discussed its “investigations into individual services licensed in Curaçao” on six occasions since a June meeting with the regulator to “establish contact”.

“Acma engages with overseas regulatory bodies for the purposes of assisting with our enforcement and disruption efforts against illegal services,” the spokesperson said.

“In relation to Curaçao, we have written to them about individual services licensed in their jurisdiction and about updates on the Curaçao regulatory framework”.

The June meeting was prompted by an Acma complaint to Curaçao’s finance minister, Javier Silvania, which accused about 90 online casinos of continuing to target Australian consumers despite warnings they had breached the law.

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Since then, Acma has blacklisted more than two dozen gambling websites also based in Curaçao. Some remain online, describing themselves as “the best Australian online casino website” and offer “welcome bonuses” of up to $2,650. Others with Australian landing pages offer “20 free spins” or bonuses worth 75% of an initial deposit.

Currently, Curaçao has four master gambling licence holders that provide sub-licences to hundreds of offshore operators. There is little oversight of this process and a lack of transparency about who owns the sub-licences and where they are physically based. Acma believes the companies are also unaccountable.

“In each case, we have contacted the operator and relevant master licence holder regarding the contravention,” an Acma official told Silvania in May last year. “As at date of this letter, these services continue to contravene the Australian [Interactive Gaming Act] by providing prohibited gambling services to Australians.”

Curaçao is in the process of overhauling the online gambling industry and a new entity, the Curaçao Gaming Authority, will soon grant licences based on a company’s track record. Master licence holders will no longer be able to sub-license for a fee.

“We are continuing to explore further regulatory collaboration with overseas gambling regulators and would welcome any opportunity to engage with the Curaçao Gaming Authority once established, to share information or coordinate action against the provision of online gambling services in breach of Australian laws,” the letter from Acma said.

In response, the Curaçao Gaming Control Board said it was willing to collaborate with the Australian regulator and insisted “we take these breaches very seriously and will do all that is possible to stop them”.

An Acma summary of the June meeting, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, said Curaçao authorities had listened to their complaints.

“They confirmed that contraventions by operators in other jurisdictions such as Australia would be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a licensee under the new regime,” an Acma email obtained under freedom of information laws said.

“It will be mandatory for licensees to have in place dispute resolution mechanisms in place for affected customers, such as Australians.”

The Curaçao regulator will assume greater control and oversight of licences from 31 March, according to a nine-page update supplied to the online gambling industry earlier this month.

“The Curaçao Gaming Control Board is committed to keeping the remote gaming industry free from crime and ensuring that licence holders act in a fair and transparent manner and protect the vulnerable players, including minors,” the CGCB update said.

“Applicants and licence holders are expected to demonstrate reasonable efforts to secure compliance with law and financial sanctions guidelines in the countries where their services are accessed.”

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Curaçao urged repeatedly to crack down on online casinos targeting Australians

Many of the 1,000 gambling sites blocked by Australia’s watchdog were licensed on the Caribbean island, which has become a casino hub due to limited oversight

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The media watchdog has repeatedly urged authorities in the tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao to stop letting online casinos target Australian consumers as it blacklists more operators.

Offshore gambling companies have been banned from targeting Australians. A large portion of the almost 1,000 websites blocked by the watchdog were licensed in Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela, which has become a hub for online casinos due to limited oversight.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) spokesperson said the agency had discussed its “investigations into individual services licensed in Curaçao” on six occasions since a June meeting with the regulator to “establish contact”.

“Acma engages with overseas regulatory bodies for the purposes of assisting with our enforcement and disruption efforts against illegal services,” the spokesperson said.

“In relation to Curaçao, we have written to them about individual services licensed in their jurisdiction and about updates on the Curaçao regulatory framework”.

The June meeting was prompted by an Acma complaint to Curaçao’s finance minister, Javier Silvania, which accused about 90 online casinos of continuing to target Australian consumers despite warnings they had breached the law.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Since then, Acma has blacklisted more than two dozen gambling websites also based in Curaçao. Some remain online, describing themselves as “the best Australian online casino website” and offer “welcome bonuses” of up to $2,650. Others with Australian landing pages offer “20 free spins” or bonuses worth 75% of an initial deposit.

Currently, Curaçao has four master gambling licence holders that provide sub-licences to hundreds of offshore operators. There is little oversight of this process and a lack of transparency about who owns the sub-licences and where they are physically based. Acma believes the companies are also unaccountable.

“In each case, we have contacted the operator and relevant master licence holder regarding the contravention,” an Acma official told Silvania in May last year. “As at date of this letter, these services continue to contravene the Australian [Interactive Gaming Act] by providing prohibited gambling services to Australians.”

Curaçao is in the process of overhauling the online gambling industry and a new entity, the Curaçao Gaming Authority, will soon grant licences based on a company’s track record. Master licence holders will no longer be able to sub-license for a fee.

“We are continuing to explore further regulatory collaboration with overseas gambling regulators and would welcome any opportunity to engage with the Curaçao Gaming Authority once established, to share information or coordinate action against the provision of online gambling services in breach of Australian laws,” the letter from Acma said.

In response, the Curaçao Gaming Control Board said it was willing to collaborate with the Australian regulator and insisted “we take these breaches very seriously and will do all that is possible to stop them”.

An Acma summary of the June meeting, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, said Curaçao authorities had listened to their complaints.

“They confirmed that contraventions by operators in other jurisdictions such as Australia would be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a licensee under the new regime,” an Acma email obtained under freedom of information laws said.

“It will be mandatory for licensees to have in place dispute resolution mechanisms in place for affected customers, such as Australians.”

The Curaçao regulator will assume greater control and oversight of licences from 31 March, according to a nine-page update supplied to the online gambling industry earlier this month.

“The Curaçao Gaming Control Board is committed to keeping the remote gaming industry free from crime and ensuring that licence holders act in a fair and transparent manner and protect the vulnerable players, including minors,” the CGCB update said.

“Applicants and licence holders are expected to demonstrate reasonable efforts to secure compliance with law and financial sanctions guidelines in the countries where their services are accessed.”

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‘Tip of the iceberg’: US self-managed abortions soar post-Roe, study shows

Analysis of data from suppliers outside US health system suggests abortion pills used by more people than thought to evade bans

  • Explainer: the mifepristone case
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In the six months after the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, roughly 26,000 more Americans used pills to induce their own at-home abortions than would have done so if Roe had not fallen, according to a new study.

Published on Monday in Jama, one of the leading peer-reviewed medical journals in the United States, the study comes ahead of a key Tuesday hearing at the US supreme court where the justices will hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the future of a major abortion pill, mifepristone.

Pills are used in 63% of all abortions within the US healthcare system, and the study suggests they are being used by even more people than previously known in order to evade abortion restrictions that now blanket much of the US.

Analyzing data from abortion pill suppliers who operate outside of the US healthcare system, the study provides a rare window into the growing practice known as “self-managed abortion”. Although definitions of self-managed abortion can vary, the practice generally refers to abortions that take place outside of the formal healthcare system, without the aid of a US-based clinician.

The June 2022 decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe and unleashed a wave of near-total abortion bans across much of the US south and midwest, led to an explosion of interest in self-managed abortion, the study found.

“Where an abortion ban is in place, it’s very common for large numbers of people to look outside the formal healthcare setting to meet their needs,” said Dr Abigail Aiken, the lead author on the study and an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “What was once considered a very sort of marginal practice now seems mainstream.”

The supreme court will consider arguments to roll back recent measures taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to dramatically expand access to mifepristone, such as erasing requirements for people to pick up the pill in person. Those changes paved the way for US providers to start offering telehealth abortions within the formal healthcare system, including to people who live in states with abortion bans; a recent analysis found that telehealth abortions now account for 16% of all abortions.

However, regardless of what the court does, its actions will not affect the thriving market for self-managed abortion, because suppliers tend to source their pills from overseas pharmacies based in countries such as India.

“There’s not a way for the government to really police that system very effectively,” said Elisa Wells, another author on the paper and the co-director of Plan C, which runs an online database of organizations that offer abortion pills. “It’s unlikely to have much impact at all, except to maybe drive up the demand for those services.”

Wells also believes that, should the supreme court try to curtail access to mifepristone, the resulting outrage will strengthen abortion pill suppliers. “Every time there’s an egregious court decision, that fuels activists and providers for finding new routes of access to help people access pills in the United States,” she said.

Medical experts widely agree that it is physically safe to self-manage an abortion early on in pregnancy, and the World Health Organization even offers a protocol for doing so. It is also technically legal to end your own pregnancy in almost every state, including in the 16 states that have enacted near-total abortion bans. (Nevada has a law that explicitly criminalizes self-managed abortion later on in pregnancy.) Abortion bans generally target abortion providers, not patients.

However, experts have long warned that, if a prosecutor wants to punish someone for a self-managed abortion, they will find a statute that is elastic enough to use. Even before the fall of Roe, people had faced criminal consequences over alleged self-managed abortions. Between 2000 and 2020, 61 people were criminally investigated or arrested on suspicion of ending their own pregnancies or helping someone else do so, an October 2023 report found.

The study released on Monday examined the provision of pills from three different kinds of providers: community networks, which are groups of volunteers who usually offer pills free of charge; telemedicine organizations that provide pills with the aid of clinicians who are based outside the United States; and online vendors, which are straightforward businesses that simply sell pills.

The study’s authors obtained data directly from most of these sources, although the authors also used statistical modeling to estimate how many pills may be provided from other sources that did not supply data to researchers. Including those estimates, researchers reported that these suppliers provided almost 40,000 pills in the six months following the demise of Roe. Had Roe not fallen, the researchers estimated that they would have provided closer to 10,000 pills.

In the six months after Roe, suppliers provided almost 6,000 pills for self-managed abortions each month, the study found. That’s a monthly increase of more than 300% compared to before the fall of Roe. More than half of all these pills were provided by community networks.

Using past studies as well as providers’ own estimates of how often their pills were used, researchers also calculated how many more self-managed abortions took place after Roe compared to how many would have taken place had the landmark ruling survived. Ultimately, they estimated that 26,055 more self-managed abortions took place than if Roe had not fallen.

The landscape of self-managed abortion has likely changed dramatically even since the end of the period captured in the study, which ended in December 2022, Aiken and Wells said. More and more vendors have entered the marketplace, driving down the cost of pills. Community networks are seeing increased requests this year, Wells added.

The numbers in the Monday study, she said, “are the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s happening out there”.

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Sacha Baron Cohen denies Rebel Wilson’s claims of ‘asshole’ behaviour on set

Australian star names Baron Cohen as the ‘massive asshole’ referred to in her memoir, Rebel Rising, as representatives for the Borat actor reject ‘demonstrably false’ allegations

Rebel Wilson has named Sacha Baron Cohen, who she worked with on the 2016 film The Brothers Grimsby (known as Grimsby in the UK), as the “massive asshole” she refers to in her forthcoming memoir, Rebel Rising.

The Australian actor also claims that the Borat star is attempting to block publication of the book.

Writing on Instagram today, Wilson said: “I will not be bullied or silenced with high priced lawyer or PR crisis managers. The ‘a**hole’ that I am talking about in ONE CHAPTER of my book is Sacha Baron Cohen.”

In a statement shared with the Guardian, representatives for Baron Cohen strongly rejected the allegations of bad behaviour on set, saying:

While we appreciate the importance of speaking out, these demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence, including contemporaneous documents, film footage, and eyewitness accounts from those present before, during and after the production of The Brothers Grimsby.

In previous Instagram posts, Wilson claimed that a “massive asshole” she once worked with had hired a crisis PR team and started sending her threats after she claimed they would be the subject of a chapter of her book. “He’s trying to stop press coming out about my new book,” she wrote. “But the book WILL come out and you will all know the truth.”

Ten days ago on Instagram, Wilson said: “When I first came to Hollywood, people were like, yeah, ‘I have a no asshole policy, means like, yeah, I don’t work with assholes.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah. I mean, that sounds sensible or logical. But then it really sunk in because I worked with a massive asshole and yeah, now I definitely have a no assholes policy.”

Wilson and Baron Cohen starred together as husband and wife in Grimsby, and Wilson has previously discussed her experiences making the movie, saying that Baron Cohen encouraged her to strip off entirely, before hiring a body double when she refused.

Speaking on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show in Australia in 2014 (Grimsby had a long period in post-production), Wilson said that Baron Cohen was so persistent that she told him she would call their shared agent “and tell her how much you are harassing me”.

She continued: “Every day he’s like, ‘Just go naked, it will be funny. Remember in Borat when I did that naked scene? It was hilarious.’ On the last day I thought I’d obviously won the argument and he got a body double to do the naked scene.”

Wilson also alleged that Baron Cohen asked her to stick her finger up his bottom in the final scene. “And I went, ‘What do you mean Sacha? That’s not in the script.’

“And he’s like, ‘Look, I’ll just pull down my pants, you just stick your finger up my butt, it’ll be a really funny bit.’” Wilson said they finally reached a compromise: “You don’t wanna be a diva so I … said I’ll slap you once on the butt and that’s it,” said Wilson.

Grimsby, which co-starred Isla Fisher and Mark Strong, is widely considered the lowest moment in Baron Cohen’s screen career. Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, Baron Cohen said:

“Any flop is difficult. But in retrospect, the experience was fantastic. I was on the trajectory of a comedy movie star in Hollywood where you make a certain amount of movies that have to do well at the box office. The great thing about having a complete bomb was being liberated from that.”

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Ex-RNC chair Ronna McDaniel: Biden won 2020 election ‘fair and square’

New NBC hire, who resigned from committee less than three weeks ago, insisted there were still ‘problems’ in how Biden beat Trump

A little more than two weeks after resigning as the chairperson of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel admitted Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election over her party’s candidate “fair and square”.

But the newly-hired NBC News contributor maintained it is acceptable to also say there were “problems” in the manner that the US president defeated Donald Trump – even after the former president’s supporters translated such sentiments into the January 6 Capitol attack in 2021 that has been linked to nine deaths, including law enforcement suicides.

McDaniel delivered her contradictory remarks Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press in what was her debut on the network as a paid pundit. Show moderator Kristen Welker spent much of the session pushing McDaniel to address why she had waited until now to concede that Biden justly defeated Trump in 2020 – and to express disapproval over Trump’s promise to free those who were convicted or still facing charges in connection with the Capitol attack if he returned to the White House.

“When you’re the RNC chair, you – you kind of take one for the whole team,” McDaniel said.

And while she said: “I don’t think violence should be in our political discourse,” she also contended that it was acceptable for Republicans to continue to question certain aspects of the 2020 election.

Though nonpartisan voting integrity experts consider that race to be the most secure election ever, McDaniel said it remained “a concern” for her that Pennsylvania could go from recording 260,000 mail-in ballots for Trump’s Oval Office victory in 2016 to 2.6m in 2020.

McDaniel omitted mentioning that mail ballots heavily favored Biden after Trump discouraged his supporters from using mail ballots and instead urged them to vote in person.

Democrats who generally obeyed measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 during that relatively early phase of the pandemic, on the other hand, availed themselves of mail ballots. Trump and his Republican allies then used the disparity in mail ballots to fuel lies about how electoral fraudsters had vaulted Biden to the presidency.

Welker at one point asked whether McDaniel regretted getting on a phone call with Trump in which they apparently sought to pressure two local-level election officials in Wayne county, Michigan, to refuse to certify the state vote that Biden won. On the call, which the Detroit News reviewed late last year, McDaniel promised the officials “we will get you attorneys” as long as they declined to certify the vote.

McDaniel stood by her actions on the call, saying the discussion wasn’t for the officials to decline to certify the outcome of the election in the state – but rather to demand an audit of the vote. She said what concerned her was that the officials reported being called “vile names” as well as “being threatened” when they went public with their wishes for an audit.

Ultimately, McDaniel said, while she believes Biden won and is “the legitimate president”, she insisted “there were issues in 2020”.

“I believe that both can be true,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel’s performance did not impress former Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, who was on a panel of commentators for Sunday’s episode. He questioned the wisdom of NBC’s decision to hire McDaniel, saying to Welker: “I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation … She has credibility issues that she still has to deal with.”

Todd said many NBC journalists are uncomfortable with the hiring because some of their professional dealings with the RNC during McDaniel’s tenure “have been met with gaslighting, [and] have been met with character assassination”.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the “internal backlash” happening within the NBC family of networks because of McDaniel’s hiring.

Citing “people familiar” with the controversy, the Journal reported that the president of NBC’s sister network MSNBC, Rashida Jones, said McDaniel would not be welcome to appear on air there.

MSNBC would not comment on that report on Sunday. But two of its star hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzeinski, said Monday on their Morning Joe show that they hope NBC “reconsiders its decision” to bring McDaniel aboard.

Meanwhile, an MSNBC executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person would not publicly discuss internal matters, told the Associated Press it would be up to individual network shows to decide whether or not the bring McDaniel on – not that there is a channel-wide ban.

NBC had no comment on Todd’s statement. In announcing McDaniel’s hiring on Friday, the network’s senior vice-president for politics, Carrie Budoff Brown, said that McDaniel would contribute her analysis “across all NBC News platforms”.

A niece of US senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who is the only Republican to twice vote to convict Trump at his impeachment trials, McDaniel became the first woman to serve as RNC chairperson in 2017.

But she resigned on 8 March, saying in part that she was stepping down to afford Trump the opportunity to select a chairperson of his choosing as he attempts to take back the presidency in November.

The RNC subsequently installed as its chairperson Michael Whatley, a North Carolina Republican who has echoed Trumpists’ claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was voted in as co-chairperson.

Trump has claimed he does not intend to use the RNC to pay off the legal bills that he has run up while facing more than 80 criminal charges for election interference, retaining classified materials after leaving the Oval Office and hush-money payments. He has also been grappling with multimillion-dollar civil penalties handed to him over lawsuits centering on some of his business practices that were deemed to be fraudulent as well as a rape allegation that a judge has found to substantially true.

But as the Associated Press has reported, the Trump loyalists in command of McDaniel’s former organization are in firm control of the Republican party’s political and fundraising levers without facing much – if any – internal oversight.

Asked why NBC viewers should trust her voice after her RNC tenure, McDaniel said a substantial number of Americans shared her viewpoints. “I think,” she told Welker, “you should be able to hear from different voices.”

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Horror film Late Night With the Devil takes $666,666 on Sunday in the US

The found-footage film took a suspiciously satanic number on a spooky weekend at the US box office that saw Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire top the charts

Late Night With the Devil, a found footage horror about a 1977 live television broadcast which accidentally unleashes evil into America’s living rooms, took $666,666 on Sunday in the US.

As Variety reports, the verified takings for the film contributed to an overall $2.8m weekend take – a slightly less satanic figure.

While Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire topped the charts with $45m in the US – and $61m globally – horror also drummed up good business elsewhere, with Sydney Sweeney’s nun frightener Immaculate debuting at number four with $5.3m.

Dune: Part Two retained the second spot, adding to its $233m US total (it’s now on $574m globally). Meanwhile Kung Fu Panda 4 drops to third place after two weeks at No 1 in the US, ahead of its UK opening this Friday, with a $133m domestic total.

Cinemas around the world are gearing up for this weekend’s release of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, which is widely anticipated to ravage the Easter box office.

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